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Green’s call for ban on foreign oil imports, using Alberta oil instead

Green party Leader Elizabeth May says saving the world from climate change requires Canada to get off oil before the middle of the century.

In the meantime, she wants Canada off foreign oil as soon as possible.

The promise to make Canada energy independent is _ perhaps unexpectedly _ in line with the economic and climate strategy of Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

Scheer’s plan calls for Canada to import no foreign oil by 2030, partly by planning an energy corridor across Canada that could simplify the construction of pipelines able to move Alberta oil to any coast. He sees it as a way to find additional domestic markets for Canada’s oilsands, in a bid to increase their production.

May’s plan, to “turn off the taps to oil imports” is only a stop-gap measure to keep foreign oil out until Canada can break its oil habit altogether.

By 2050, May wants bitumen to be used in Canada only by the petrochemical industry for plastics, rubber, paint, and other such products.

“As long as we are using fossil fuels we should be using our fossil fuels,” said May.

May’s climate plan is likely to get more scrutiny than its predecessors in past elections.

The Liberals and NDP already proved they are paying close attention to the rising threat of Green support, with both pushing similar motions to declare climate change an emergency in the House of Commons earlier this month. Both motions were tabled less than a week after the Greens elected a second MP in a Vancouver Island byelection, and not long after a provincial wing of the party formed the official opposition in Prince Edward Island.

May said she’s perfectly fine with Green popularity pushing other parties to raise their games on climate. While both the Liberals and NDP claimed their motions had been in the works before the byelection result, May said there is no doubt in her mind that Paul Manly’s winning and the NDP and Liberals finishing distantly third and fourth, “had almost everything to do with” the motions.

The NDP motion failed because it called for Canada to drop plans to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline, a pipeline May also opposes. The Liberal motion hasn’t yet gone to a vote.

The Green climate plan also calls for Canada to double its cuts to greenhouse- gas emissions by 2030 and get emissions to zero by 2050. That plan includes no longer selling combustion-engine cars after 2030 and replacing all existing combustion-engine vehicles by 2040.

Canada imports about a million barrels of oil a day and produces four times that much. In 2017, Canada produced 4.2 million barrels of oil, and exported 3.3 million of those. Domestic refineries handled 1.8 million barrels.

Canada’s oil producers already pump enough product to meet domestic demand but there are two problems: there is no pipeline from the oil-rich west to refineries in the east, and even if there were, those refineries aren’t equipped to handle the heavier bitumen that is the Alberta oilsands’ trademark.

For Canadian refineries in the east, bitumen from the oilsands must be upgraded to synthetic crude. May’s plan is to invest in upgraders to do it.

She acknowledges weaning Canada off foreign oil won’t happen overnight, given existing contracts Canadian refineries have and figuring out how to build the upgraders and then ship the product.

Privately, Liberal government critics suggest there is no way to have Canada’s east coast use Canadian oil without building a new pipeline to get the products there. May does not support a new pipeline anywhere, and argues the raw bitumen could be transferred by rail as long as Canada invests more in its rail services.

The proposed Energy East pipeline to carry diluted bitumen to the east coast fell apart in 2017 amid significant opposition in Quebec, opposition that continues under the new Coalition Avenir Quebec government.

Scheer’s plan is to establish an energy corridor that would allow an Energy East-like pipeline to proceed alongside interprovincial electricity grids, with only one right-of-way required.

May said the Greens are the “only party that have a plan that allows human civilization to survive.”

“It’s not a Canadian lifestyle choice,” she said. “All of humanity is at risk.”

 


Alberta oil cuts, close the taps bill are unwelcome interventions: Suncor CEO

Incoming Suncor president and CEO Mark Little addresses shareholders. Photo: Jeff McIntosh Canadian Press

Incoming Suncor president and CEO Mark Little addresses shareholders. Photo: Jeff McIntosh 

 

The new CEO of Suncor Energy Inc. says he doesn’t want the Alberta government to carry through on its threat to cut off shipments of oil and refined products to B.C. if its western neighbour continues to interfere with pipeline growth.

Following the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 2, Mark Little said any such action resulting from the proclamation of Bill 12 by the new United Conservative government this week would create a barrier between Suncor’s refinery assets in the Edmonton area and its customers in British Columbia.

He said Suncor is using the Trans Mountain pipeline to the West Coast now to bring gasoline and diesel to the B.C. market and it supports pipeline expansion so that it can grow that market.

“We’re hoping that through the government’s negotiations this can get sorted out, because the last thing we want to do is have an impediment in serving our customers,” he said.

He added he views the Alberta bill as “a fairly significant intervention into a market to try to resolve a dispute.”

Earlier in the day, Little told analysts on a conference call that Suncor remains opposed to another Alberta market intervention, its oil production curtailments, in spite of their “slightly positive” impact on first-quarter financial results.

The results show the value of Suncor’s integrated business model and extensive pipeline contracts at a time of turmoil in the industry, he said.

“In the fourth quarter of 2018, there were low benchmark prices with wide heavy and light crude oil differentials. Whereas, in the first quarter of 2019, there were higher benchmark prices and narrow differentials,” Little said.

“Both quarters, we were able to generate significant funds from operations.”

Little officially took over as chief executive from Steve Williams at the annual meeting in downtown Calgary. Williams was given a standing ovation by shareholders after a speech about the company’s accomplishments during his seven years as CEO.

Alberta’s decision to impose quotas on its biggest oil producers was designed to free up pipeline space and draw down crude storage after price discounts on western Canadian oil spiked last autumn.

The move is supported by oilsands producers like Cenovus Energy Inc., whose CEO pointed out last week the resulting higher prices have helped boost royalties to Alberta’s treasury.

But it’s opposed by rivals such as Imperial Oil Ltd. and Husky Energy Inc. who note that crude-by-rail exports plunged to 131,000 barrels per day in February from an all-time high of 354,000 bpd in December _ which means oil export capacity was actually reduced.

Both points are accurate, said Little, but he added the confusion means Suncor and others are reluctant to spend money on new projects.

The UCP government has supported curtailments brought in by the NDP and favours gradually reducing the cuts over the coming year.

Suncor said its quota strategy involved maximizing highly profitable upgraded synthetic crude oil volumes, while throttling back lower-margin mined raw bitumen, a move that has temporarily increased its operating costs per barrel.

The company said average realized bitumen prices jumped to $62.92 per barrel at Fort Hills in the first quarter, up from $30.57 in the fourth quarter of 2018, as oil price discounts eased.

The Calgary-based oilsands producer and refining giant reported net income for the first three months of the year that beat analyst expectations thanks to higher oil prices, record downstream results, growing oilsands production and a $264-million after-tax insurance gain on its assets in Libya.

Net earnings were $1.47 billion or 93 cents per share in the quarter, up from $789 million or 48 cents in the same period of 2018.

Its operating profit came to $1.2 billion, compared with $985 million in the first quarter of 2018.

It had total oilsands production of 657,000 barrels per day in the first quarter, compared with 572,000 bpd a year earlier, thanks to gains at the expanded Fort Hills oilsands mine and higher contributions from the Syncrude mine and upgrader, in which it has a 58.7 per cent stake.

The company says refining and marketing delivered record operating earnings of $1 billion, up from $789 million in the first quarter of 2018.

Suncor said production from its East Coast offshore Hebron project increased to 18,300 bpd (net to Suncor) and is continuing to grow following the completion of a fifth production well in the first quarter.

It said first oil was achieved ahead of schedule in the quarter at the Oda project offshore Norway, in which it has a 30 per cent stake.